The trial involving eight high ranking officials of the Board of Directors of the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) who are before the court for failing to comply with a production order continued yesterday before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
The officials charged for the offence are Chairman, Robin Stoby; and directors, Edward A. Beharry, Suresh Beharry, Richard Isava, Carlton James and Basil Mahadeo, along with Chief Executive Officer (ag) Shaleeza Shaw and Kathryn Eytle-Mclean.
They all denied the charge which alleged that on September 7 at Georgetown, they failed to comply with production order granted by Chief Justice (ag.) Roxanne George Wiltshire, for them to produce certain documents to the head of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Sydney James. The order was made on August 29.
The defendants are being represented by Attorneys Ian Chang, Roger Yearwood, Nigel Hughes, Stephen Fraser and Edward Luckhoo.
Yesterday when the matter was called in the Chief Magistrate courtroom, Sydney James, Head of SOCU continued his testimony.
The testimony of James did not go over too well with the battery of lawyers who are representing the defendants.
Soon after James started to give his testimony, the lawyers asked that he leave the courtroom so that they can address the court.
The lawyers told the Magistrate that James’ testimony on the first occasion was about the production order which their clients allegedly did not produce when they were ordered to do so and that his evidence would be repetitive on this occasion.
SOCU Prosecutor, Patrice Henry, in his reply to the lawyers, told the court that James’ further evidence should be taken, since he played a major role in the investigation even after the production order was handed over to SOCU.
The Magistrate after listening to the prosecutor told the court that she would allow the witness to continue giving his evidence in the trial.
James was then invited back into the courtroom and was allowed to continue his testimony. James said that August 6, 2017, he was presented with an envelope by a representative of GBTI.
Subsequently, the documents issued for the production order were delivered to him.
He added that he was present at SOCU Headquarters during the month of September when six envelopes were delivered to him by a representative of GBTI, and he signed and collected them.
James went on to tell the court that on October 10, he received another envelope from a marshal from the High Court and inside that envelope was an application of variation to the production order.
On October 20, last, he was present in the Chambers of the Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, where the matter came up for hearing. At the hearing, the acting Chief Justice granted the defendants an extension until November 3 for them to comply with the production order.
James went on to tell the court that on October 19, he was given certain instructions with respect to filling charges against the defendants based on advice by DPP and the charges were filed.
The matter was adjourned until February 12 when the defendants attorneys will cross examine Sydney James.
SOCU, as part of a probe into US$500M that the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) handled as far back as 2010, submitted files to the DPP recommending contempt charges against GBTI’s eight directors. This was after the bank and SOCU were locked in a battle over information concerning the GRDB accounts, since February.
SOCU is contending that the bank failed or stalled and gave all kinds of excuses, and even destroyed pertinent records relating to GRDB.
SOCU reportedly argued that other banks complied, but it was finding it hard going with GBTI.
SOCU received four court orders, including one from the High Court, asking that GBTI hand over the information.
In late August, the acting Chief Justice granted production orders to SOCU, giving the bank a week to hand over certain information. That deadline expired in early September, and the bank was reportedly granted some extra time. However, the deadline elapsed and SOCU prepared files recommending the charges of contempt against the directors.
Under tough anti-money laundering laws, once court orders are granted, financial institutions are reportedly bound to provide information. In this case, the monies are not from private accounts, but rather from the US dollars and other accounts of GRDB, a state entity.
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